16.09.2020 Author: Viktor Mikhin

New US Plans in the Middle East

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The third trilateral summit between Egypt, Jordan, and Iran took place at the end of August in Amman, Jordan.  The first summit took place in Cairo in March last year, and the second one was held in New York during the regular session of the UN General Assembly in September 2019.  Iraq was represented by Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi in the first two summits, and by his successor in the post, Mustafa al-Kadhimi, in the most recent summit.

As reported by US media, a few days before the recent summit, the Iraqi Prime Minister was a guest of US President Donald Trump: “The visit, a part of the ongoing strategic dialogue between Iraq and the USA, was a success.” In the talks, Washington disclosed its plan to further subdue the Middle East, but since the United States has already lost what little reputation it once had among the Arab peoples, it has decided to entrust the implementation of its plans to Iraq.

Immediately afterwards, in an interview with the Washington Post, the Iraqi Prime Minister proposed the creation of a “new Middle East” or “New East” in the Levant, which would include Egypt. He explained that the idea was for the countries to work together to stabilize the entire Middle East and find a political solution to the conflicts raging in the region. The new bloc would also cooperate and coordinate their plans so as to achieve economic prosperity for the region’s peoples.

Under this project, it is proposed that Iraq will construct an oil pipeline from Basra to Egypt, via Jordan. Cairo and Amman will receive oil, and in return, Baghdad will receive electricity, which it currently gets from Iran. In view of Baghdad’s wish to reduce Tehran’s influence in its territory, Syria, as an ally of Iran, will be excluded from the project. Moreover – and this was noted by many Iraqi media outlets – the Iraqi Prime Minister for some reason failed to react to the view expressed by John Bolton (former national security adviser to the US President and a US foreign policy “hawk”) that Iraq’s collapse was beneficial and that the United States should recognize the Kurdish state as a fait accompli. According to Mr. Bolton, the USA should adopt a strategic approach to the Kurdish issue in the other countries affected – Syria, Iran, and Turkey – because, in the end, it would lead to a very positive result (for America).  For John Bolton & Co., the cornerstones of their policy in the region are the “Kurdish question” and the principle of “divide and rule”.

It should be remembered that the idea of trilateral cooperation between Egypt, Jordan, and Iraq is not new. More than 30 years ago, the three countries, plus Yemen, founded the so-called Arab Cooperation Council. The members signed various agreements concerning economical, trade, social, and cultural aspects of their mutual relations. However, this experiment was short-lived. Less than a year after its creation, on  August 2, 1990, Iraq invaded Kuwait, and the newly-formed Council was abandoned.

Before the signing of the peace treaty between Jordan and Israel on October 24, 1994, Iraq, Jordan, and Syria had been members of an alliance called the Eastern Front. This alliance between a group of countries previously at war with Israel was intended to provide a measure of strategic balance in the Middle East. It served as a deterrent against Israeli expansion in the Middle East, even though Egypt had, on March 26, 1979, signed the first Peace Treaty between an Arab state and Israel. The Eastern Front, to some extent, provided security and stability for the three countries for a brief period, until it was fatally undermined by the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait.

Of course, the strategic situation in the Middle East, and those countries in particular, has changed dramatically since then. In view of the difficulties Iraq and Syria are facing, they are in no position to revive the old proposal. Nevertheless, given the lack of security and stability in the Middle East, the idea of a “New East” seems very attracting. The long period of chaos – particularly following the United States’ invasion of Iraq in March 2003, and the Arab Spring, with its disastrous consequences, has opened the door for Western intervention in the Levant and Iraq.

Several political observers have suggested that if the three countries that launched the trilateral cooperation mechanism can work seriously to reestablish the bloc, their joint activities may sooner or later bear fruit. As the Iraqi Prime Minister has said, such a bloc would work in the interests of peace, security, and stability in the Middle East and serve as a counterweight to any intervention in the Middle East and Iraq. The alliance is seen as a defensive body, and is not directed against any country, or group of countries, in the region.  That is quite natural, as the very idea of such a bloc is focused on the future, not on the past. According to Iran’s Mehr News Agency, the world is in effect witnessing the slow and gradual emergence of another Middle East- a region that will live under a Pax Americana, and in which Israel will become the leading partner of the United States once the latter has withdrawn from the region. This current strategy was initiated by the US administration, and will continue, albeit at a much slower pace, if Joe Biden, the Democratic Party candidate, becomes the 46th President of the USA in November.

Once it becomes a reality, the bloc will protect the interests of its founding members’ national interests in tomorrow’s Middle East, which may see  a close cooperation between the Gulf States and Israel, if the former follow in the example set by the United Arab Emirates and normalize their relations with the Jewish state. But the US strategy of promoting alliances between Israel and Sunni countries, in particular the Gulf States, Egypt, and Jordan, is not easy to implement – at least not in the way that the United States and Israel wish. This idea is causing the Iraqi Prime Minister some problems at home, especially among Pro-Iranian political forces and armed militias. But Mustafa Al-Kadhimi has assured them that his views are not aimed against Iran, and has stressed that Iraq wants to have good relations with all its neighbors, without exception.

The Egyptian newspaper Al-Ahram has commented on the situation:

“The emerging new Middle East will be full of crosscurrents and strange alliances that may undermine the security and stability of major Arab powers if they refuse to become permanent partners of the Pax Americana in the region. If a trilateral alliance is formed, it will become a kind of bulwark against a particular nation or group of states in the Middle East and Persian Gulf, led by America, which will try to change the order in the region to fit in with their visions and national interests.”

But politicians in Washington either have short memories or they do not know the region’s history. It might be worth reminding them how, in the 1950s, the United States and Great Britain tried to create various types of military alliances and blocs with the help of various local groups. In connection with the 1952 revolution in Egypt, and to promote its influence in neighboring countries, in 1955 the United Kingdom, who considered itself the leader in the region, initiated the creation of the Central Treaty Organization (CENTO), which included Great Britain, Turkey, Iraq, Iran, and Pakistan. The United States, was not formally a party, but it played an active role in the work of a number of its structures, provided military assistance to the participating countries, and placed its military facilities on their territory. After the revolution of 1958, Iraq left the bloc. In 1979, after the revolution in Iran, the bloc that was renamed CENTO in 1959, ceased to exist. By creating a system of blocs, the United States sought to establish world domination. The idea of establishing an American world order dates back to this period.

The fact that the Trump administration is forcing countries to adopt new – or old – economic strategies is a sign of its continued isolation and its unilateral policies. The measures adopted by the Trump administration are bringing many countries closer together with a common goal – to circumvent the restrictions – referred to as unilateral sanctions – that the  “beacon of democracy” is imposing on one country after another. That is why countries both in the Middle East and elsewhere refuse to side with Washington, which has a record of abandoning international treaties. As a result, the US has become the world’s leading rogue state, a significant threat to global stability and peace. Washington’s complete disregard for international law and peaceful coexistence has been manifested not only in its confrontation with Iran, Russia, and China but also in its mockery and daily threats of sanctions against various members of the international community, including even its European allies.  This hegemonic policy will lead the United States to even greater isolation.

Washington’s partners, especially its allies, have also come to understand that the US does not care about their interests and values, such as multilateralism and the rule of law.

Victor Mikhin, member-correspondent of the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences, specially for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook“.


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